To keep a team interested and motivated in their work, you need to give them something to care about.
If your backlog has enough stories to fill 10 sprints, it can be tempting to queue up all the work and ask the team to get started.
But that’s treating the team like a feature factory. They may feel the only important thing is getting the job done, and it doesn’t matter what those tasks are – or even how well they are done.
You can group stories into a category, so each sprint focuses on one area of the product. This is better than a group of unrelated things, but it can still seem like all you’re interested in is the output – rather than outcomes.
A good way to organise product development work is by using sprint goals.
If you have a sprint planning session, the sprint goal should be mentioned at the start of planning. It’s there for the Product Manager to say “here’s what we should focus on this sprint”.
The goal should mention what will be done, along with a specific outcome. It’s important to back this up with why the goal is important.
By doing this, the team understands the desired outcome of the sprint, and how what they work on contributes to this outcome. This helps the team to feel their work is valuable.
For bigger features, goals can also build on previous sprints.
For instance, a cross-selling feature for a large product catalogue might be too much to build in one sprint, and might not show immediate value. So it might be built for a small number of products first, and managed manually by someone in the back office team.
Subsequent sprints could expand to more products, improve the tooling used by the back office team, or provide some automation.
Sprint goals can also tie back to wider company objectives.
So if the company wants to grow sales by 50%, each area could look at how they can influence this goal, and provide lower level sprint goals that map back to this objective.
If the company wants to reduce cancellations by 50%, teams would come up with sprint goals linked to this objective instead.
By having goals linked back to company objectives, it creates a shared sense of purpose and everyone really can work towards the same goals.
In summary, sprint goals are a powerful way to give a sense of purpose to your sprints. They motivate teams by giving them a reason to care. And they can also give a sense of progression from one sprint to the next.